As an entirely unscientific but perhaps accurate summary of the geographic loci of Christian hipster, here is a list of what I suggest are the ten most important cities for Christian hipsterdom. These may not be the cities with the most or the highest concentrations of Christian hipsters; They are simply the most important—for a number of reasons.
10) Orlando: This seems like an unlikely spot for a high hipster population, and indeed it is. But Orlando is the home of Relevant magazine, which immediately puts it on the Christian hipster map. It is also home of the ridiculously unhip Holy Land Experience, and hip churches with names like H20, Status and Summit.
9) Denver/Boulder/Colorado Springs: Let’s just call this the greater Denver / Rocky Mountain region. It’s teeming with Christian hipsters. Colorado Springs is sort of the epicenter for evangelical ridiculousness, which means there are a lot of post-fundamentalist / post-Focus on the Family hipsters running around. Denver is home to Denver Seminary and Colorado Christian University, as well as hipster churches like Scum of the Earth Church and Pathways. Boulder—“Berkley East”—is a whole other story.
8) Minneapolis/St. Paul: The Twin Cities, like Chicago, are sufficiently Midwestern and yet urbane enough to be highly attractive to Christian hipsters. It’s also the home of John Piper’s church, Bethlehem Baptist, Doug Pagitt’s Solomon’s Porch, Greg Boyd’s Woodland Hills Church and several other hipster churches with names like Spirit Garage and Bluer. It’s also a Christian college-heavy town, with Bethel University, North Central University, and Northwestern College all within the Twin Cities metro area.
7) Seattle: This uber hip birthplace of Starbucks and grunge is also a bastion of Christian hip. The presence of Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill church is a huge factor, but there is also Seattle Pacific and Northwest Universities, Image journal, the headquarters of World Vision, Tooth and Nail Records, and a whole lot of design and tech companies. And there are other hip churches there too, such as Church of the Apostles or Mosaic Community Church—which at one point met at a bar in Capitol Hill, Seattle’s hipster/gay neighborhood.
6) Los Angeles: Southern California as a region is, and always has been, a hotbed of Christian hip. From Santa Barbara all the way down the coast to San Diego, the greater L.A. area (particularly beach cities, L.A. metro, and Orange County) is full of Christian hipsters. There are countless Christian colleges, industries (film, music, media) that naturally attract Christian hipsters, and oodles of hipster churches, including Mosaic, Rock Harbor, Bel Air Presbyterian, Sandals, Reality, and countless others.
5) Grand Rapids: Grand Rapids is the home of Calvin College, so it automatically makes the list. But it’s also a center of Christian book publishing, and the home of some really hip churches—none moreso than Mars Hill Bible Church, pastored by Rob “Evangelical Steve Jobs” Bell.
4) Kansas City: I might be biased, because I’m from Kansas City, but having traveled all over I can honestly say that, against all odds, Kansas City is one of the most influential cities for Christian hip in America. It’s the place where the International House of Prayer (24/7 prayer) originated, where bands like Waterdeep got their start playing at hip Christian coffeehouses like the New Earth. It’s the home of hipster churches like Jacob’s Well, Beggars Table, Vox Dei, Redeemer Fellowship, and The Gathering. And some of the most high-end and fashionable clothing stores in the city (The Standard Style Boutique, Habitat) are owned and operated by Christian hipsters.
3) Washington D.C.: This city has a remarkably large number of young, just-out-of-college inhabitants. They go there to make a difference in the world, interning in government and nonprofit jobs for little or no money. Christian hipsters—highly idealistic, activist-leaning people that they are—migrate to D.C. in large numbers. Hip churches are not hard to come by in D.C. either, including such congregations as Capitol Hill Baptist, Falls Church, Covenant Life Church (pastored by Joshua “I kissed dating goodbye” Harris), and National Community Church, which features a totally hip coffeehouse, Ebenezers.
2) New York: As it is for any other hipster, New York is the dream destination for many Christian hipsters. Whether they go there to be actors, artists, designers, or factory workers, hipsters love living in New York. Currently, it’s the city where many Christian hipster icons (such as Sufjan Stevens, Welcome Wagon, and Jay Bakker) reside. It’s also the site of dozens of very hip, urbane, trend-setting churches like Redeemer Presbyterian, All Angels Episcopal, and Journey, as well as ministries such as the International Arts Movement.
1) Chicago: There are oodles of Christian colleges in the Chicago area–Wheaton, North Park, Moody, Trinity, Olivet Nazarene, and more. But beyond all that, Chicago is just a super hip place to live. Hipsters of all kinds—Christians included—flock there. It’s the home of Pitchfork magazine, for goodness sake. It also has a hip heritage: the Jesus People USA are located in Uptown; the iconic 1968 DNC riots took place in Grant Park; Wilco is from there… It’s also in the Midwest—a convenient urban enclave in the middle of the Bible Belt. For many Christian hipsters, Chicago is the best option for thousands of miles.
Honorable Mention: Portland, San Diego, St. Louis, Dallas, Las Vegas.